Can we please stop talking about digital transformation?

To be clear, this is not a call to refute the usefulness and necessity of digital transformation. This is a call to stop using the term “digital transformation” as a standalone “topic” in itself. Let’s face it, in the payments industry, digital transformation is all we know. It’s everything we’ve been doing in some form or another for the last however many decades. Yet somehow, recently it’s become a “thing”: an undefined click-bait article topic that everyone wants to read about; a buzz-term that generates larger audiences at conferences and stirs excitement that someone will say something ground-breaking.

It is also the most disappointing topic to be in the audience for. As these click-bait article headlines and talk titles become more prominent, there is nothing more disappointing than something with the word “transformation” in the title that fails to deliver. I’m not going to bore you by pulling out the standard “Oxford dictionary defines it as….” Because, we can all agree, today transformation is becoming a buzz-term that is synonymous with yesterday’s innovation – totally ambiguous, up for personal interpretation that gives little or no indication to the impact it could bring to you and your business.

Digital transformation is such a huge umbrella term that covers the entirety of a business’s overarching strategy to streamline and create efficiencies using digital means. It almost seems impossible as a singular mammoth undertaking. Unsurprisingly, not all strategies are created equal and taking a big bang approach to modernisation has, according to Forbes, created “pilot purgatories” with companies finding themselves unable to sustain or scale the benefits; in short, a significant investment with an underwhelming impact.

Of course, every business wants to react to the market quickly, operate more efficiently, free up resources, and attract more customers; and digital transformation promises all the above. But perhaps it isn’t for everyone. Perhaps some companies should take a phased approach, especially those companies where every function is a silo, every team is an island and every modernisation project is an impossible mountain to climb. Perhaps, we should bin transformation as an approach and look at evolution. The only winners in the digital age are those who understand their current position, resources and capabilities and make smart and often smaller changes to increase efficiencies: upgrading, adjusting, and replacing when required and where needed. Ultimately those that understand the importance of constantly learning, adapting, and sharing experiences, will always “win” at digital transformation and those who wait until is too late and throw substantial amounts of money at quick fixes hoping to delay the problem will always be playing catch up.